The FATHER Formula: 6 Things Your Daughter Needs from You

by Dr. Michelle Watson Canfield

Dads of daughters, I know you want to be closer with your daughter and I know it’s often a challenge as she grows older while interpersonal dynamics become a bit more complex. And whether you’re a dad who is already dialed-in or a dad who knows there is room for improvement, I want to give you a way to evaluate where you’re at as you develop strategies for “kicking it up a notch” today.

Here is a fathering formula to assist you as you pursue your daughter’s heart, six things she needs from you, with some action points for each one:


  • Reflect back to when you first laid eyes on her.
  • Show her pictures from when she was a newborn or toddler and I guarantee that you’ll fall in love with her all over again!
  • As the adult, you have to make the first move towards her, not the other way around.


  • Love Bank = 5 deposits to 1 withdrawal in order not to overdraw your relationship account.
  • Choose to give her five times more proactive investments to every one negative interaction. (This includes discipline, which is necessary, but needs to be balanced with intentional positive connections first to offset the intensity of the hard conversations.)
  • Make this your goal every week … or every day if you want extra credit … to invest in her by using this 5:1 ratio.


  • It’s important to verbally dialogue with her, not just talk at her.
  • Converse with respect and soften your tone, just like you would to a work colleague or neighbor down the street.
  • Practice speaking with her for at least five minutes per day with face-to-face check in’s to find out how her day went and maintaining eye contact when you’re interacting.


  • Make time for fun and laughter while enjoying her every day (because you’ll look back one day and realize how quickly the time flew by).
  • Come up with new ways to engage her in things she’s interested in that bring a smile to her face.
  • Listen and watch for what makes her laugh and keep it coming!


  • Text her and tell her how much you love her … right now.
  • Schedule a dad-daughter date and get it on the calendar, even if it’s a couple of weeks out because if you don’t intentionally make it happen then life takes over and it’s easy to inadvertently grow apart.


  • Because you’re her dad, this one is on you. It’s up to you to pursue her and reach her heart.
  • The years fly by, and if you don’t intentionally invest daily, before you know it she’ll be out of the house and you’ll wonder where the time went.
  • No matter what your relational history looks like, it’s up to you to win back her heart.

The FATHER Formula is a template for you to gauge where you’re at when it comes to putting your love for your daughter into action.

Please write and let me know how it goes, because I love celebrating with you as I applaud your willingness to make the FIRST move by AFFIRMING and TALKING with your girl, all the while finding the HUMOR in life around you, not taking yourself so seriously, and never giving up as you seek to ENGAGE her heart by communicating encouragement and REACHING out to show that you’re proud of her as you celebrate the uniqueness of who she is.

These six things will dramatically improve, revive, reinforce, and strengthen your relationship with your daughter. It’s all about getting in there and showing up, no special training necessary.

All you have to do is try.

And if you want The FATHER Formula in just twelve short words, here’s my summation: You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to be present.

Bonus Action Points for Members

FIRST: Be the first to humble yourself by saying you’re sorry and making amends.

AFFIRM: Ask yourself: How many positive, affirming deposits have I made into our dad-daughter relationship account this week?

TALK: Ask your daughter’s mom: Do I talk to my daughter with respect and a soft tone? What do you notice?

HUMOR: Be willing to let her laugh at you without taking yourself too seriously.

ENGAGE: Decide to learn one new thing about her this week—a song she loves by her favorite band, a new boy she likes, a class she’s struggling with, a relationship that’s challenging for her, a book she’s reading, a question she’s pondering ….

REACH: She longs for you to be proud of her and needs your validation and approval …so tell her why you delight in her and give specific ways that you are proud of her.

Read more of Michelle’s articles here.

Dr. Michelle Watson Canfield is a licensed professional counselor in Portland, Oregon, founder of The Abba Project, a 9-month group forum for dads of daughters (ages 13 to 30), and author of Let’s Talk: Conversation Starters for Dads and Daughters and Dad, Here’s What I Really Need from You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter’s Heart (both available on Amazon and Audible). She also hosts a weekly radio program in Portland called “The Dad Whisperer,” which you can access as a podcast on her website and on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play Music. Visit for more information and to sign up for her weekly Dad-Daughter Friday blogs. You can also follow or send feedback on Facebook and Twitter.

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There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.